COVID killed my life

COVID has killed a lot of things.

Hear me out. There is a light at the end of this tunnel.

COVID has killed a lot of things.

Hear me out. I promise there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

Of course, COVID has killed almost 200,000 Americans. The level of life that has been lost is unparalleled to anything I’ve experienced. This virus has also killed jobs and industries. I drove by our movie theater last night to see it totally shuttered. I’m not sure how many restaurants will not make it out of this pandemic, but I’m guessing it’s a lot. COVID killed off relationships and school ties. It’s hard to calculate the greater risk. Do I see an old relative and risk spreading an illness? Or do I wait and wonder if it’s my last chance to see them?

COVID kills. But what if COVID also helped kill things in a good way?

Before COVID I let my stress levels get high from taking on too much responsibility. I was so busy, and it kind of sucked. I would come home and dread seeing my family because my emotional energy was depleted from meaningless tasks.

Before COVID I didn’t love the mother I was. I wanted to look at Carly and feel joy, but I didn’t feel anything. I hated how much I didn’t feel anything.

Thankfully, COVID killed the excess things I did not know I did not need.

You can’t be stressed out from volunteering when you can’t volunteer. You can’t be stressed out from too many meetings, when there are no meetings to attend.

After COVID hit, I spent less time on tasks that were not fulfilling my soul or helping my family. I spent more time surrounded by my daughters and my husband. For the first few weeks I felt utterly trapped. But as time went on and the quarantine continued to stretch, a new light flickered inside me.

Thanks to COVID (and 25 mg of Zoloft) I started feeling rested again. Renewed joy sparked inside of me. Instead of feeling stressed out all the time I felt relaxed. I hadn’t felt relaxed – honestly – ever in my entire life. My husband told me he has never seen me like this, and I’m certain he hasn’t.

When I had no choice but to stop taking on excess responsibility I was finally free from the things that I let weigh me down.

Of course I realize my privilege here. I’m privileged to be able to work remotely and have childcare available. I’m privileged to have a spouse who splits our household division flavor. Our family stress has waned while I’m certain there are many who are under much greater duress.

And don’t get me wrong. My anxiety over being pregnant and potentially getting COVID was remarkably high. But what pregnant woman/new mom wouldn’t be a little more stressed out right now?

My maternity leave ended, and I went back to work this week. I’m working with my husband and my therapist to make sure I keep my stress levels down. For the first time in my career I’ve started taking breaks. I work for a while, actually take lunches, and stop to pick up the girls and cuddle them for a few minutes. Then I go back to remote work.

Life has forever changed for us. I don’t know what a new normal will be, and I don’t think our old ways will ever return. How do you live through a pandemic and come out unchanged?

For all of the negatives this virus has brought us, it is not without many positives. I can see many lights shining in this darkness. Like Noah’s raven I can see the water starting to recede.

COVID killed my life, and there isn’t a day that goes by I’m not thankful for it. I have emerged from this renewed, refreshed, and reborn. The drowning waters have subsided, and my life is beginning anew.

The Hypervigilante

If I were a super hero, I’d be “The Hypervigilante.” My power would be seeing every detail, pointing out potential issues, and making the world a ‘perfect’ place. A hallmark of PTSD is living your life on guard. Once upon a time in Gotham city, the Joker invaded your life and took away your sense of safety. Now, you spend every day in a high state of escalation.

Noticing everything has made me amazing at so many things. I’m great with data details, which helped me escalate in my profession. I specialize in possible sources of gluten contamination, which is why I don’t get glutened very often. “Did that bread touch my salad?! Take it away!”

Yet I am exhausted most of the time. It’s the little switch I struggle to turn off. I jokingly say, “I live life at a 10.” The sentence I don’t say after is, “Because I don’t know how to live life at a 5.”

In the age of a pandemic, my super power came in handy at first. I could see every threat better than most, and as a result I kept my family safe. However, as March stretched into April, and now July goes into August – life at a 10 is taking its toll.

What makes this stage of my life unique, is that I’m now no longer alone in my vigilance. As COVID has killed 150,000 in our country, many other Americans are also living life at a heightened state with me. We question our grocery store trips, getting our hair done, what to do for child care, and whether we should try to dine out for the first time in months.

Talking to my mother-in-law I said, “I’m use to living in this state, and I’m exhausted. So I can only imagine how exhausted everyone else is.” I’ve spent a lot of time explaining PTSD to people. After living through this pandemic together, I’ll never have to explain trauma to people again. We are living through this thing together.

Out of thin air we lost so much. Doctors and presidential candidates were taken. The memories we wanted to create were stolen. Grandparents have yet to meet their new grand child, graduates never got to celebrate their accomplishment, and weddings were moved to backyards instead of dining halls. It’s sad. It’s exhausting. And we’re all tired together. This way of living cannot subsist for much longer.

We were meant to be social creatures, embracing each other’s company. For some time we can embrace life at home. But slowly, the embrace is feeling like a choke hold.

“If only everyone would wear a mask!” I scream in my head.

“Stay six feet away from me and my children.” I whisper to myself when anyone comes near.

“If only the nation had better leaders who could wrangle us together!” I shout to my husband.

If only we could all be vigilant for a few weeks, instead of this dragging on for months.

If only … If only… If only…

Until then, my practical prayers have turned to asking for miracles, and my hypervigilance stays on track until exhaustion wins over. The hypervigilante stands on guard. Trying to keep my family safe.

On building a COVID legacy…

Legacy is an important thing. A well examined life means thinking about the future, but it also means reflecting on the past. It means asking “How did I live my life, and what do my actions say about me?” Many things define a person. Good or bad, right or indifferent, we can use many things to define our lives. Some use family and friends, others use cars and money. The most common measuring stick is our actions, and how we have chosen to treat others along the way.

When I was getting divorced nearly ten years ago, I had several people tell me I was being too kind. I had one person told me I should have tried to get alimony from my ex. I had another person tell me they would never give an ex-spouse a dime of money. My philosophy was that I wanted what was fair, and I wanted him to get off my back (duh). So I quickly gave up more money than the average person. I also did one other thing: I tried to never do anything I thought I would regret. When I look back on getting divorced, I have no regrets about my actions.

The last few weeks have been tough for my family and I, and tough for many people we know. In mid-March, we were supposed to attend a gala. Instead, we stayed at home. In late-March, we were meant to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday in Wisconsin. Instead, we stayed at home. Sunday was Carly’s second birthday. Instead of having that Sesame Street party, we did a fifteen minute online get together. I have left the house a handful of a times in a month; mostly for prenatal care.

No person I know has not lost something due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every person has had events cancelled or delayed. Many have lost jobs or work. And some have lost so much more. As the death toll continues to rise, as of yesterday, our country has lost over 23,000 lives. In the next few weeks and months, we will lose more.

It isn’t just those 23,000. It is their loved ones who suffer, and they must suffer alone in their homes. If just 25 per lost life are sad or hurt over those 23,000 – that would mean about 575,000 are feeling the pain of a loved one lost. That is a few under every man, woman, and child in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (pop. 592k) feeling a sudden loss.

And what about the 580,000 Americans that have tested positive for COVID? Given the lack of testing, delayed tests, and those who could never afford treatment – that number is grossly underestimated. What if we do the same math as before? If 25 per sick person are impacted in some way by those 580,000 – it would mean 14.5 million American lives ‘impacted.’ What is impact? Just living with knowing? Holding their hand as they suffer? Bringing them a tray of food as they are quarantined inside?

While the numbers are large, the impact is exponential. And the unknown consequences of a world living through a pandemic will live on for decades. We all know that after this life will never be the same again. We are living through a trauma together.

Michigan is a following a ‘Stay home, stay safe’ order. My family has taken that to heart. We stay at home, and we only leave if it is essential. When we do go out, we wear masks and gloves. In our actions, we support our governor, white ribbon workers, and we are doing everything we can to lessen the spread of this pandemic.

In a few months, I want to be able to give birth to our new baby, and not be scared I will have to be alone in the delivery room because the pandemic has lingered.

In one year, I want our daughters to be able to receive safe childcare where the threat of COVID is minimized.

In five years, I want to know I worked with my community to re-build our lives after this pandemic.

In ten years, I want to look back on our lives and know we did everything we could do prioritize the lives of the people around us.

In twenty years, I want to tell Carly that I put aside childish desires (like a gala, or a birthday party) for the health of a stranger I do not know.

In thirty years, I want to tell my grandchildren I was not petty or silly. I want to tell them I did not protest over dirt, knowing those in Syria and Yemen do not even have their own land to fight over during this pandemic.

In fifty years, I want to tell my maker that I did unto others as I would have them do unto me. I will tell Jesus I said kind things, I put the needs of others above my own pride, and that I did it with as much love and compassion as possible. I will tell Him that my legacy was one in which He could find great delight.